Final preparations (534)

by Max Akroyd

Just over a week to go until the new year –  in my book, that’s the solstice –  and I’m looking at my ‘to do by the 21st’ list a bit anxiously. It’s split in two, with the household things on the left and the garden stuff on the right: my small scrawl fills an A4 sheet. That’s Christmas for you. Fortunately, most of the items on the left are crossed through but, alarmingly – the credit card being mightier than the spade – most of the garden tasks are only part-completed.

I’m attempting to get the garden ready for winter now, hitherto something I usually attempted in spring – which could only be described kindly as an enigmatic strategy. All evidence of summer’s excesses has to be removed and almost all of the 107 beds either mulched, planted or trenched. This will be like pressing the reset button, a clean slate for the new season; and it will allow me to contribute in a non-distracted way to all the family being assembled under our roof at Christmas.

This task has to run alongside strange things, bizarre and unnatural acts, which still populate the other half of the list: like hoovering the car. We are probably the only family who cleans the car before it goes to the garage for its winter service: mainly because presenting the mechanic with a car carpeted in animal feed, straw and other farmyard detritus might create the wrong impression. Or, far worse, an accurate one…


It’s still not certain whether it’s swine flu or man flu that’s going around chez-nous but I’m keeping the workload as light as possible to keep the symptoms that way. It was a very still day so I elected to keep mulching. This will end soon, not because the job’s done, but because I’m almost out of plastic. I managed to cobble enough together to vanquish two beds which have been annoying me for months. It was hunt central in our locale today and it was a pleasant distraction to watch the dogs running hither and thither below me.


After forty metres of mulching, accompanied by unforecast, chilly rain, my thoughts were turning to the warm fireside… But there was still one other job to do. If I were to list the shortcomings of my impact on this garden to date we’d be here until Christmas (2010). The most obvious though are two large areas in and amongst the other bed areas which lie unmown and untamed and collectively known as The Rough. This isn’t a golfing reference, by the way, I am to golf what Tiger Woods is to chastity.

But how big is the Rough? Sometimes it’s handy to have a one metre stride, especially if no one is watching: I measured out the perimeter of each area and calculated a total area of almost exactly an acre. Very decadent to have this land going to waste. Fortunately I have more electric fence on the way and our remaining pigs will be let loose on it in the spring so this problem will soon be addressed.